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Dissertation
Social Choreography on Stage
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Year: 2016 Publisher: Leuven KU Leuven. Faculteit Letteren

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Abstract

The term social choreography has enjoyed an increasing popularity over the last decade, in the dance and performance field as well as beyond. We investigate in this thesis first and foremost how the term is used in a contemporary dance context. We take a detailed look at the theoretical concept of social choreography proffered by literary scholar Andrew Hewitt, who proposes dance as a playground where new political and social ideas are tested. Hewitt mainly presents social choreography as an analytical object and tool, but also suggests it as an artistic strategy, although without making any prescriptions in this regard. We apply the theory on one specific contemporary dance performance, On Trial Together, which the artists Saša Asentić and Ana Vujanović describe as a social choreography. What does it mean to talk about a dance performance as a social choreography? Can a social choreography be intentionally instilled, to what extent and what are the hopes and the results thereof? With these questions in mind we test social choreography as artistic strategy, which is trying to rethink the theatre as a place of the performative that could potentially bring about social change. This leads us to classic questions about the role of art in society and to recent discussions on the political potential of contemporary dance. Looking at dance and performance studies texts of for example Claire Bishop, Bojana Cvejić, Bojana Kunst, Rudi Laermans, Jacques Rancière and Ana Vujanović, and on the basis of our case study, we take a rather critical stance towards social choreography as artistic strategy. On Trial Together formulates a critique of the complex working conditions of the (German) dance scene. Our finding is that this critique loses its credibility as it is formulated by means of and serves as an ideal example for these conditions. Furthermore we conclude that On Trial Together, using social choreography as artistic strategy, fails to exhaust the theory’s true potential, which lies in its rather unconscious persistency and slow development over a period of time and is mostly only visible retrospectively. Therefor, finally, we return to social choreography the way Hewitt describes it and conclude that it makes most sense to use it like he suggests, as analytical object, which also means that we will only really know the social choreographies of today in the future, as they will develop without our knowledge or conscious initiative. Nevertheless, specific performances are singular movements inside these social choreographies and can play a decisive role in their slow development and direction.

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